The Personalist Project

Accessed on September 27, 2023 - 2:00:22

Truth and mercy in human experience

Katie van Schaijik, Sep 06, 2014

Cleaning my room today, I came upon an old journal and found this thought, from August 2005. I think it holds up.

I am seeing more and more how the human idea of mercy is protection from truth. True mercy [divine mercy] is an encounter with Truth—which is extremely painful. I suppose it's what Purgatory is all about. We prefer the illusions that give us false consolations.

At the time, I was in the midst of deep personal crisis—experiencing betrayal and bitter disillusionment. I was under intense peer pressure from the surrounding Christian community to deny the truth of my experience in the name of mercy and for the sake of "unity". 

By some grace I knew this advice was false, like the false advice of Job's friends. It would have been an unavailing, sham mercy for the sake of a superficial, sham unity. I held out. (Thank God Jules and a few crucial friends with me in seeing the truth!)

But the pressure from others added to the burden of my trials. Looking back and remembering how much pain I was in at the time, I am amazed at what I could see and how I was able to pray:

[A priest from a few years back, just before my trial had begun, said to me in confession], "Accept gratefully whatever reality comes to you."

Reality, accepted in humility, is salvific. We should be grateful for it. We should seek it out. 

Lord, deliver me from my illusions. Help me reach the truth about myself, so that I can begin to show your mercy toward others. (My own mercy dried up long ago.)

Psalm 141:5 "Let a righteous man strike me—it is kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it.

Today I can report that this prayer has been and is being answered in abundance. I am "reaching the truth about myself." I feel like Eustace after the lion peeled off his dragon skin and made him a boy again. Through failure and suffering, through grace, and with the support of true friends and the help of good books, I am coming into my humanity, and my selfhood, which means, I am just getting to a place where I have real power to give freely and connect truly with others. I am grasping all this existentially—not just through an act of faith. I am learning—slowly!—the true principles of interpersonal communion.

A few days after I wrote that entry, I put down a great Newman quote, from his sermon titled "Contest Between Truth and Falsehood in the Church." Newman, too, had had to suffer terrible trials of betrayal, disillusionment, and false pressure from seeming friends.

It is also true that all the matters which come before us in the course of life are trials of our faith, and instruments of our purification. It is also true that certain principles and actions are right and some are wrong. It is true, moreover, that our part lies in finding out what is right, and observing and contending for it. And without judging of our bretheren's state, and, again, without being over-earnest about little matters, it is our duty plainly to witness against others when we think them wrong..."

These are the kind of shafts of lights that God kept shining into my darkness, so that I could always at least take the next step.